IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

9.7 Forests and Sustainable Development

Sustainable forest management of both natural and planted forests is essential to achieving sustainable development. It is a means to reduce poverty, reduce deforestation, halt the loss of forest biodiversity, and reduce land and resource degradation, and contribute to climate change mitigation. Forests play an important role in stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere while promoting sustainable development (Article 2; Kyoto Protocol). Thus, forests have to be seen in the framework of the multiple dimensions of sustainable development, if the positive co-benefits from forestry mitigation activities have to be maximized. Important environmental, social, and economic ancillary benefits can be gained by considering forestry mitigation options as an element of the broader land management plans.

9.7.1 Conceptual aspects

Forestry policies and measures undertaken to reduce GHG emissions may have significant positive or negative impacts on environmental and sustainable development objectives that are a central focus of other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), and Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. In Article 2.1(a, b), Kyoto Protocol, Parties agreed various ways to consider potential impacts of mitigation options and whether and how to establish some common approaches to promoting the sustainable development contributions of forestry measures. In addition, a broad range of issues relating to forest conservation and sustainable forest management have been the focus of recent dialogues under the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests.

Recent studies highlighted that strategic thinking about the transition to a sustainable future is particularly important for land (Swanson et al., 2004). In many countries, a variety of separate sets of social, economic and environmental indicators are used, making it difficult to allow for adequate monitoring and analysis of trade-offs between these interlinked dimensions. Still, sustainable development strategies often remain in the periphery of government decision-making processes; and lack coordination between sub-national and local institutions; and economic instruments are often underutilized.

To manage forest ecosystems in a sustainable way implies knowledge of their main functions, and the effects of human practices. In recent years, scientific literature has shown an increasing attempt to understand integrated and long-term effects of current practices of forest management on sustainable development. But often, environmental or socio-economic effects are considered in isolation, or there is no sufficient understanding of the potential long-term impacts of current practices on sustainable development. Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes for forest services (recognizing carbon value) may be foreseen as part of forest management implementation, providing new incentives to change to more sustainable decision patterns. Experience, however, is still fairly limited and is concentrated in a few countries, notably in Latin America, and has had mixed results to date (Wunder, 2004).

Important environmental, social, and economic ancillary benefits can be gained by considering forestry mitigation options as an element of the broad land management plans, pursuing sustainable development paths, involving local people and stakeholders and developing adequate policy frameworks.